Summary: Vergine’s account of the formative years of performance art takes stock of the many innovative strategies artists developed for re-engaging the human body. One of the crucial dimensions of this reengagement is the positioning of one’s body in physical proximity with others. This happens in art through the bodily negotiation of basic dichotomies such as nature/artifice, ethos/pathos, agency/abandon, publicity/privacy, mortality/immortality etc. Vergine sees objects, and the body’s undifferentiated objecthood, as active participants in the performative communication and communion between artist and audience. These forms of togetherness stand or fall on the intensity of all parties’ affective investment, but they are also equally affected by the level of intellectual mutuality an art work occasions. According to Vergine, the demand for intelligent analysis and deep understanding that performance art places on its audience is balanced out by the artists’ bodily presence. For her the artist’s body does not serve merely as a mechanical expedient. It also “contributes to the life of consciousness and memory in a psycho-physical parallelism of processes that assume meaning and relief only when they are connected.”
Comment: This text offers a historical overview of our concept of the human body in the context of art. It can be useful in any class on body aesthetics, performance art, or dance.